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RSS feed vs. email subscription: what's the difference?

Posted by: in General on Monday, July 15, 2013

I was asked recently, “What’s the difference between an RSS feed and an email subscription?” To accurately answer, let’s take a look at what both are and the benefits.

What is an RSS feed?

RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication" and it's just that - a way to syndicate your content to other sites or tools. RSS is simply a stream of data that consists of a lightweight subset of the content it is sourced from. It includes the article titles, summary, and link back to the original post.

If you look in the upper right corner of this blog post, you'll see a little orange icon under the email signup option. The icon has lines inside of it that make it look like it's broadcasting radio waves. This is the standard symbol for RSS. If you click this icon, you'll be given options for subscribing to our blog using the RSS reader of your choice. (Popular ones include Google Reader, NetNewsWire, FeedDemon, and Flipboard). These applications let you create a dashboard of articles using RSS feeds that you subscribe to.

What are the benefits of RSS?

Offering an RSS feed gives you the ability to embed your content on other sites. If you would like to share your content with other sites and allow them to publish your articles within their content, you can give them a link to your RSS feed and they can easily embed it. Whenever you publish a new post, it will also update their website in real time.

RSS feeds are easy to add, and they can be used for other types of content like events, news, etc., though the most popular use is in a blog. Having an RSS feed maximizes your chances that visitors will stay connected to your content. If you're not offering RSS as a subscription option on your blog, be sure to remedy this soon. You could be missing out on subscribers!

What is an email subscription?

An email subscription is when people subscribe to your new posts via email. This means that they receive notifications via email without having to actually visit your blog. It offers a valuable service to readers who don’t want to miss your posts. It’s a free service and is valuable especially if your blog is rarely updated since the content is pushed directly to your readers.

What are the benefits?

Email subscriptions are automated - meaning it’s hands-off. You don’t have to manually subscribe or unsubscribe readers; it happens all by itself. (The email comes with instructions in the footer for how to unsubscribe.) By having email subscriptions, you’re keeping readers in a more personal way. A high number of email subscribers is just as important and impressive as your monthly visits - plus, it shows a dedicated and involved readership. If your blog doesn’t have an email subscription box, I highly recommend it!

So what’s the difference?

The main difference is that RSS feeds go to your RSS reader, while email subscriptions go to your inbox. RSS feeds won’t get trapped in your email spam filter, and they have no file size limits. They are 100% deliverable and can include podcasts. Email is a bit more limited. However, some people prefer to have all information sent directly to their email inbox. 

Which do you prefer - RSS feeds or email subscriptions?

Landing pages 101

Posted by: in General on Friday, July 12, 2013

Are you looking to improve your marketing ROI? I’m guessing the answer is yes. (Who isn’t?) Did you know that the answer is right at your fingertips?

Now you’re probably thinking, “Michael, enough tempting! Tell us how!” Well, okay. But just because you asked.

The answer is simple - and most likely not what you might expect: Landing pages. If your business is not taking advantage of them, then you’re missing out since they are one of the most important elements of lead generation. 

So what is a landing page?

For those who may not be familiar, let’s go back to the basics. A landing page is a website that allows you to capture a visitor’s information through a lead form. In other words, it’s a place for you to have a tempting offer - something that your customer would really love. Maybe it’s an ebook or a case study - or perhaps you’re offering clients to sign up for a email campaign. Whatever it is, you dangle the carrot in an attempt to get people to give you their contact information via a form.

You will convert a higher percentage of your website visitors which you can follow up with. See how this works now?

What’s the big deal?

Here’s where you might be thinking, “What the big deal? I can just send my ebook out to my email list or post it on my homepage.” When you know that people are coming to your website for a specific purpose, you can increase the likelihood of converting that traffic into leads by using a targeted landing page.

Let’s say that you run a social media campaign offering a free digital evaluation. (We are if you’re interested!) If you send responders simply to your homepage, you’ve given them no follow-through...no direction for how to actually sign up for the free service. (Yes, it really is free if you’re interested!) Having a landing page in place makes it that much easier for them to complete the action (whatever that is that you’re having them do). The effectiveness of your online marketing will improve dramatically. Guaranteed.

What makes a landing page most effective?

There are several things you can do to make your landing page successful. First and foremost, make sure you have a valuable offer. If you do, your visitors will give up their contact information in no time. 

It’s equally important to make your offer sound compelling. Give a detailed description of everything they’re going to receive - but you also want to leave enough to their imagination so that they actually follow through by filling out the form.

Speaking of which, you want people to be motivated to fill it out. That being said, don’t ask 20 cumbersome questions, or people won’t do it. The shorter, the better. (We try to limit our forms to less than 3 fields. It’s tougher than it sounds!) This will greatly improve your conversion rate.

You’ll also want to enable sharing. You never know who will want to share this amazing deal with all of their friends. (Free marketing!) 

If you’re working hard at marketing and directing people to your website, don’t miss out on ROI by not taking advantage of landing pages. You’ll be glad you did!

[Whiteboard Lesson] How to increase website traffic

Posted by: in General on Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Most organizations are extemely interested in finding ways to increase website traffic. While there are no easy shortcuts, there are some proven ways to dramatically increase the traffic to your website over time.

In this whiteboard video, we'll cover some things you can start doing right away to help. The transcript is included below this video for convenience.


Michael Reynolds: Hey, thanks for joining today's Whiteboard video. Today, we're talking about website traffic. The first step in getting leads and customers in your business obviously is attention. People have to know about your company. They have to know about your brand. You have to bring them to your website. We are going to talk little bit about how that's accomplished. This is the top part of the inbound marketing funnel, where we generate traffic. As you can see, we have some different tactics that we use typically for generating traffic. Some of those tactics include blogging and social media.

All of those affect search engine optimization as well. It all really fits together when done correctly. Let's talk about blogging first. Blogging is one of the best ways to generate content and website traffic, because blogging solves problems. When people are searching through things like Google, when they are trying to solve a problem or they're trying to get answers, they search. They also go to social media sometimes and ask their peers and their friends. When you blog consistently, you now have content to provide fuel in the social media space as well as on search.

Google really likes fresh, relevant content that helps people and solves problems. When you blog, you want to blog not necessarily about your company, your products and services. Instead you want to blog about your audience. You want to blog about what's important to them. Solve their problems. Answer questions. Provide a list of things that are resources to them and how-to articles. All of those are great blog topics. You don't want to sell. You want to teach and you want to educate. 

Next, let's talk about social media. Social media is also a great way to generate traffic to your website and attention on your brand. What a lot of people do though is make the mistake of what I call chattering on social media. They just maybe ask a question or two or say something here and there. They really don't lead people anywhere else. They just post something out there and hope for the best. Instead, what you want to do is actually provide resources on social media.

This is where blogging comes in as a resource as well. When you have blog posts to share, suddenly you have fuel behind your posts on social media and you can lead people back to more information about what you are posting about. Also, great things to post on social media include things like infographics and photos. Whenever possible, you want to provide a link so people can read more about that particular topic ideally on your blog or somewhere on your website. That generates traffic.

The more value you provide on social media, the more people will come back and attach themselves to your brand by liking your Facebook page, following you on Twitter, et cetera. All of this also affects search engine optimization or SEO in a big way. SEO used to be about getting a few links, doing some technical work on your website and hoping for the best. It was putting some keywords in there and that was the end of it. Nowadays, it's much, much different. It looks much different. SEO is now focused primarily on great content. It's also focused on social signals.

Hopefully you can see now how blogging and social media really come together to help improve your efforts on search engines as well. Google really likes to pick up high quality blog posts and articles that teach and educate and provide a lot of value. Google also looks at social signals, things like Facebook likes and shares, Google plus ones and shares, conversations on Google plus, Twitter posts and LinkedIn posts. All of these things affect, in various ways, Google's weight on how it scores content.

When you put all this together, basically, the more high-quality content you create typically on a blog and the more you generate interest on the content or about that content on social media, the more people will share it and the more your search engine efforts will be improved as well. Those are all great ways to generate traffic. Doing one of them is a great idea. But when you put all of them together, it becomes much more powerful. This really how you generate website traffic and start people down that path, in the top of your funnel, where you can start to put them in your database and do more with them. But really the first step is traffic. Hopefully that's helpful. Thanks for joining us. We'll see you next time.

How to do SEO from 10 years ago

Posted by: in General on Monday, July 8, 2013

If you’ve likely heard the phrase, “That’s so 10 years ago!” (I think it’s what Black Eyed Peas was referring to when they sang “I’m so 3008, you’re so 2000 and late.” Maybe.)

Regardless, time marches on, and things change. SEO is no exception to that rule. The SEO that was 10 years ago does not play by the same rules we do today. Yet there are some companies out there that haven’t upped their game, so to speak.

I’m hoping that your company is not relying on these old school tactics. If so, it might be time to join the 21st century.

Keyword stuffing

If you were hoping to increase your ranking 10 years ago, you would repeat your keyword as many times as you could in each paragraph. (7 times per page served you well.) “Did you know that SpinWeb is launching a new product? Yes, SpinWeb is launching a new product named X on May 1, 2014. Did we mention that said product is being launched May 1 by SpinWeb? Tune into SpinWeb’s blog for its new product launch on May 1.” Argh... it’s exhausting! (Not to mention repetitive!)

Google has figured out the keyword stuffing game. Today, you’re more likely to raise your ranking if you include high-quality content, even if your keywords are mentioned just a few times. Go for rich content creation, not keyword repetition.

Link exchanging

Remember how everyone exchanged links to boost ratings? Google is on to your old-school ways, people. Nowadays, I suggest relying on other means - like getting links in a natural, organic way. 

In the event that you’re still “so 10 years ago” and stuffing your page footers with useless links to other exchange partners, that’s bad news. Google discounts those in most cases. Instead, what you need are content links. Guest post on someone else’s blog (providing exceptional content, of course).

Directory links are also not counted in today’s game. Generate buzz around your site by making viral videos and killer podcasts for linking power. 

Obsess over metatags

Back in the day, people spent weeks and months perfecting metatags to boost search results. Nowadays, this is almost meaningless. The meta keywords tag can be dropped altogether. If you want to add keywords to your page, try tags or enriching your content in the visible content area.

Write sales-y content 

Of all the “That’s so 10 years ago” SEO remnants we still deal with, this is the most common. People have a hard time wrapping their hands around the idea that quality content is better than sales-y content. I understand what business owners are trying to do = sell. But readers are quick to pick up on selly-sell content. They don’t want to be sold to, so they will stop reading. Today, quality content is the fuel that drives inbound marketing. 

Stuff your city name in to all your web pages

Even though it looked incredibly awkward, a decade ago people thought you were golden if you stuffed your city name into all your web pages. “SpinWeb is a web-based marketing company in Indianapolis, Indiana. Need to contact us? Fill out this form to send it to us here in Indianapolis, Indiana. We’re here in Indianapolis, Indiana, working hard to meet all your SEO needs.” (Yikes!) Today, that’s totally not necessary. Don’t do it. (Please.)

Even if you find yourself living in the SEO world of 2003, it’s never too late to start updating your tactics...even if it’s 3008. 

How to maintain an insanely great customer support system

Posted by: in General on Thursday, July 4, 2013

A lot of companies struggle to bring in new customers. (I mean, who doesn't want more people buying their product or service?) Maybe you don’t have trouble getting new clients (Good for you!)...you have trouble keeping your clients. 

How your customers feel about you is important.  The more you can show that you care about them, the more likely they are to continue working with you in the future. Henry Ford had the right idea, “A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry - about profits. They will be embarrassingly large.”

If he’s right (and I’d say he is considering his proven empire), providing great customer service should be one of your top priorities if you’re a business owner. If you’re looking for some ideas for showing some love to your clients, read on.

Make a good first impression

Good customer service starts from the moment your client picks up the phone and makes their first connection with your company. Don't you hate it when you call a company and get an auto-attendant that says something like "Your call is important to us" and "Please listen carefully as our menu options have changed"? Based on how often I hear this message, it seems like 99% of all companies change their auto-attendants every time I call. Generating inbound leads with online tactics is great, but if those leads call and get an auto-attendant, your brand is instantly damaged, and you're already off on the wrong foot. Make sure your phone is answered by a real (and super-friendly) person. 

Hire the right people

The right people in your customer service department will keep people feeling loved. Take Chris Antoine, for example. Chris has one outcome to focus on: to make our clients ridiculously happy. That's it. Chris is smart, considerate, and knows how to do that. He bends over backward to solve problems for our clients and make them happy. As a result, many of our clients choose to work with us again and again - in addition to praising us and Chris publicly (which is great marketing)! Hiring the right people in your organization will provide a strong foundation that can make all the difference.

Use solid customer service software

At SpinWeb, we use ZenDesk, an easy-to-use, self-service software. ZenDesk takes customer communication from anywhere - your website, email, phone, Twitter, Facebook, and chat - and turns it into a support ticket. Your support team sees everything in one place, and your customer is able to use the channel they prefer. Essentially, ZenDesk puts all the info you need in one workspace, giving your support team a holistic view of your customers and their current issues. It’s a great way to keep your work streamlined and organized, making their customer support job that much easier. 

Utilize texting

When something urgent comes up (as it tends to do from time to time), we know how important it is to have good response time. That’s why we make sure our clients can get ahold of us. Our receptionist allows clients to leave a message that is texted to our phones if they can’t get ahold of us in real time. We want our customers to know that their issues are our issues to solve, and we take that seriously. This service is available 24/7 in the event of a server outage or other major problem.

Great customer service for our company may not be the same as yours, but one thing is for sure: customer service is imperative if you want to keep your customers happy. And isn’t that the ultimate goal?

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